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What is Illegal Search and Seizure?

iStock_000009728597Small-300x102The topic of illegal search and seizure seems to be creating a lot of buzz lately as the exact law and definition of what makes a search and seizure illegal is in flux. The law is changing as recent court decisions are having an impact on police conduct. Law enforcement officers have a new code of conduct when it comes to searching you or your property. The Fourth Amendment usually limits the amount of authority police have over searching you or your property but several precedents have been set by court decisions that have greatly altered the dynamics of the law.

Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from what is called “unreasonable search and seizure” by government or otherwise authoritative figures. The Amendment does however, leave room for what is known colloquially today as the search warrant. The law states that government figures can conduct a search and seizure provided that there is probable cause supported by oath or affirmation indicating the place should be searched and the person or things should be seized.

In order for the court to determine if the search and seizure was illegal, the court needs to decide if the person had a true expectation of privacy. If the person left evidence laying out in the open, the search and seizure may be passed as legal and warranted. If the search and seizure is considered illegal, whatever evidence gathered must be thrown out of court due to the exclusionary rule. This does not always mean charges will be dropped right away because prosecution might have other evidence that was obtained legally. Law enforcement cannot use illegally obtained evidence as probable cause for another (legal) search and seizure.

Illegal Search and Seizure Defense

Illegal search and seizures are often the golden ticket that gets cases thrown out. If your criminal defense lawyer is able to determine that the search and seizure was conducted illegally, that is, in violation of the Fourth Amendment or any precedent thereafter, the evidence seized is not admissible in court. That means if you have been accused of a crime, a criminal defense lawyer is your best bet if you want your case to be thrown out of court.

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